Monday, February 29, 2016


BACHIGO' = slanted eyes

So I did an experiment the other day. With the permission of the man who is pictured above, I showed the pic to different people, asking them to guess this man's nationality.

No one said Chamorro as a first guess. The first guess was usually Chinese or Japanese. Vietnamese and Malaysian also came up. Some did say Chamoro, but as a third or fourth guess.

When I told them that this gentleman (at the time a Capuchin friar) was a Chamorro, the usual reply was, "Wow. He's bachigo'."


There is a Chamorro word which is very close in sound and in meaning to bachigo'.

The word is achigo' and it means "to close the eyes."

A poetic way some older people say, "before I die" is "åntes de u achigo' i matå-ho." Literally, "before my eyes close."

Påle' Roman, in his 1932 Chamorro dictionary, seems to suggest that bachigo' comes from ma a'achigo' or something similar.


Chamorros appeared to be bachigo', at least to some early Europeans, that some of them wondered if our ancestors were of Japanese origin. The slanted eyes and the lighter shade of brown skin they claimed Chamorros had lead them to suspect this.

This idea was discarded by Europeans and Americans the more they were exposed to the different races in Asia and the Pacific and learned to make better distinctions.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


In a recent Chamorro word search, the Chamorro word for "door" was rendered petta.

The word is actually potta.

It's the Chamorro version of the Spanish word puerta, meaning "door" or outdoor "gate."

When we add the definite article i, meaning "the," the O in potta changes to E.

Potta, when the word stands alone or without the definite article.

But i petta, with the definite article.

Door. Potta. The door. I petta.

A big door. Un dångkulon potta. Or, un dångkulo na potta

The height of the door. I linekkå'-ña i petta.

This change is vowel is called "vowel fronting."

It is often said that vowel fronting usually does not occur with Spanish loan words.

Thus, bola (ball) is still i bola. Not i bela. Otherwise, you can end up at the baseball game rather than at the wake. Small consolation to the bereaved. Bola is "ball" or "baseball game." Bela means "funeral wake." Both are taken from the Spanish.

I todo ha' ha na' siña (the all-powerful) is still i todo ha' ha na' siña. (Todo is a Spanish word)

Yet, there are almost always exceptions to every rule.


A mentioned, potta is a Spanish loan word, yet Chamorros apply vowel fronting to the word.

The following are also Spanish loan words, and vowel fronting occurs here, too.

Hoben. I heben. Young. The young.

Kollat. I kellat. Fence. The fence.

Popble. I pepble. Poor. The poor.

Potbos. I petbos. Dust. The dust.


It is understandable why the word search game above gave us petta, instead of potta, for "door."

It is common for many people to drop the definite article with some words.

If you said these two sentences, with or without the definite article in parentheses, no one would look at you twice. Either way is fine in ordinary speech.

(I) Pettan san me'na na gaige. It's at the front door.

Maolek (i) ilu-mo. You have a good head.  (Ulu is the word for "head")

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Buchi buchi? Or påstet?

I suppose the best answer is "both."

But what is the question?

For some people, the question is which is which? The general answer I receive from most people is, "If it's fried, it's buchi buchi. If it's baked, it's påstet." And my sources come from Saipan, as well as Guam.

Then there are the hold-outs who say that both words apply to either. I suppose, then, one could ask for fried påstet or baked påstet. Fried buchi buchi, or baked buchi buchi. I can just see the traditionalists cringe. For them, påstet is always baked and buchi buchi is always fried. Personally, I go along with this distinction of fried-vs-baked. It makes it easier to know which of the two you want.

The filling does not make a difference in the name. The traditional filling on Guam is pumpkin (kalamasa), though at times I also see on Guam papaya fillings for påstet. This is the typical filling for Saipan påstet - papaya.

The next endless and, perhaps useless, debate is which of the two is better? While I tend to favor the fried buchi buchi, there are times when I prefer påstet but only when the shell is exquisitely flaky and the filling perfectly flavored.

These foods were introduced to the Marianas in Spanish times as we had no wheat flour, nor pumpkin nor papaya until then.

Påstet is surely the Chamorro rendering of the Spanish word pastel. The word pastel in Spanish can mean many things, all of them a kind of food, of course. In Spain, pastel usually means "cake." But in other Spanish-speaking countries it can mean a filled pastry as we have it, although the filling can include meat. So the idea came from Latin America, I believe, and we simply used the ingredients available to us locally.

Buchi, in Chamorro, can mean a swelling on the body or a bubble on a tire. Perhaps the air pockets formed in the shell of the buchi buchi when it is fried lead to this food's name. Who really knows? The Filipinos have a treat called buchi, but it's a sweet rice ball with a mung bean filling and sesame seeds added to the exterior. I believe that's inspired by the Chinese and the name might be Chinese in origin, as well.

As someone said to me, "Call it what you want. We don't eat the name, we eat the thing itself."

Monday, February 22, 2016


A major street in Dededo is named Salisbury Street

If you live in, work in or frequently visit Dededo or Yigo, you will probably be familiar with the name Salisbury. A street in Dededo is named Salisbury and a junction in Yigo is named Salisbury. Route 1 (Marine Corps Drive) runs from the Naval Station in Sumay all the way north to Yigo. When Marine Corps Drive hits Andersen Air Force Base, it meets Route 9 and that meeting of the two highways is called Salisbury Junction.

But why are these roads and places called Salisbury? Are they named for a person? Who?

There was indeed a man on Guam named Salisbury. Commodore George Robert Salisbury was an early Naval Governor of Guam, serving in that position from 1911 till 1912.

Gov. George R. Salisbury, USN
Picture possibly taken on Guam
(Courtesy of Monie Moody)

Salisbury was born in 1855 so he was already in his 50s when he came to Guam. He had created a very successful Navy career, and was called an officer of special merit, very popular with people from all walks of life.

His was an interesting record. From what others have written about his tenure as Governor of Guam, one might think his record was somewhat negative.

For example, he made it less of an obligation for Guam's children to go to school. If a child lived more than 2 miles away from a public school, he or she didn't have to go. Schools didn't go all the way up to the 12th grade in those days and, after the age of 12 years, no child had to go to school at all. Didn't Salisbury believe in giving the children an education? Perhaps he did, but according to Guam's particular circumstances in those days. Many Chamorros themselves thought that only a few years of basic classroom education were needed for a society that was largely made up of farmers and fishermen who didn't need higher schooling. Once a girl reached puberty, many Chamorro parents refused to send her to school. Thus, Salisbury's relaxation of compulsory education was more than likely not decried by the local population. It was also not entirely impossible for those who had the ambition to continue their academic education to attend private classes.

Secondly, it was Governor Salisbury who felt it necessary to send to the Philippines those diagnosed on Guam with Hansen's disease (leprosy). This was an unpopular decision among the patients and their families, though Salisbury was obviously motivated by a desire to keep the disease from spreading on the island. Past governors had complained about the difficulty of isolating patients on Guam.

Yet, a good number of Guam's social elite praised Salisbury and commended him on a job well-done when Salisbury was to leave island for another assignment.

(Courtesy of Monie Moody)

The letter, signed by people such as Vicente Herrero, Henry Millinchamp and Frank Portusach, mentions several accomplishments of Salisbury that may explain his popularity among these civic leaders.*

1. The good state of the island treasury, with income higher than previous years. The financial reports of the island government confirms this. In 1912, a year after Salisbury started as governor, the island government enjoyed a balance of $21,538, which was $3,400 more than what government coffers had the prior fiscal year.

2. Improvements in the island courts due to the appointment of an American (stateside) Island Attorney. I do not know what these men saw as the difficulty of having Chamorro Island Attorneys. Perhaps the prior, Chamorro attorneys were more familiar with the Spanish court system, which was being replaced by an American system. Perhaps, those attorneys being natives of the island, family relations or friendships may have interfered with judicial proceedings.  Unless we find something in writing, one can only speculate why these men felt an American Island Attorney was more helpful to the island courts.

3. Expansion of the island's road system. The island's only monthly publication, the Guam Recorder, reported road improvements month after month during Salisbury's one year as governor. This might explain why a road and a junction were named after him. "Every road on the island has been repaired," claimed the Guam Recorder. And it wasn't just roads. Public buildings, water supply systems....the island government was very busy under Salisbury.


At one time on Guam, before the war, there were two schools named after two, different men named Salisbury.

There was a Navy Chaplain named Stanton Salisbury and the public school in Sinajaña was named after him in 1929.

The following year, in 1930, Governor Bradley named the public school in Yigo after former Governor George R. Salisbury.

Thus, during the 1930s until the war broke out in 1941, there were two Salisbury schools on Guam. Chaplain Salisbury School in Sinajaña and G.R. Salisbury School in Yigo.

* I believe this is a copy of the original letter, since the names of the signers are often in error.

Friday, February 19, 2016


Not too many years ago, it was a cause for chuckling among younger people to hear an elderly Chamorro matron ask a new face, "Who's your name?"

Many older Chamorros, when switching to English, were still thinking in Chamorro. In Chamorro, we ask a person  "Who is your name?" "Håye i na'ån-mo?"

This sounds strange to English speakers from abroad, but it's all a matter of perspective.

The fact is that different languages have different ways of asking for a person's name.

In many European languages, one asks "What do you call yourself?"

In Turkish, there are two different questions regarding someone's name. Asking for someone's first name is expressed differently from asking that same person's last name.

In Chuukese and Saipan Carolinian, one asks "Where is your name?"

For Chamorros, a person's name answers the question WHO (håye) s/he is.


But, for Chamorros, a thing's name answers the question WHAT (håfa) it is.

So, when asking the name of a thing or a place, the question is "What is its name?" "Håfa i na'ån-ña?"

Håfa i na'ån-ña este na lugåt? What is the name of this place?

Håfa i na'ån-ña ayo na klåsen håyo? What is the name of that kind of wood?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


The 1970s ushered in a new era in Guam politics.

Prior to the 1970s, Guam, more or less, was a one-party island : the Democratic Party. The Democrats controlled Guam elections since 1960, and, prior to 1960, its predecessor, the Popular Party, also ruled in Guam politics. Only in 1954 did the Popular Party lose control of the Guam Legislature when enough members broke away to elect a new Speaker and form a new party, and only in 1964 did the Democratic Party actually lose a legislative majority due to a general election.

But by the 1970s, Guam had an elected, Republican Governor. By the 1970s, a small number of Republicans were elected to the Guam Legislature, which had been, election after election, in the 1960s, completely in the hands of the Democrats, winning all 21 seats. In 1974, the Republicans captured the majority in the Legislature. By the 1970s, Guam was truly a two-party island.

Part of the reason for this was the expansion of the Government of Guam in the 1960s which continued under Republican Governor Carlos Camacho's term in the early 70s. Camacho appointed many young college graduates returning to Guam to government positions. Many of these young civil servants, and their families, became Republican supporters.

Another reason for the growth of the Republican Party was the arrival of many Filipino immigrants in the 60s and 70s. When they obtained US citizenship in time, and thus could vote in Guam elections, many of them voted Republican.

How was this new partisan scenario spread out across the island? Were all villages bipartisan now? Or did some villages lean more towards one party over the other?

Based on each village's general voting pattern in legislative and gubernatorial elections in the 1970s, as well as looking at each village's trend in voting for its Commissioner, what we now call the Mayor, we can form a general idea in answer to these questions.


Tamuning. This was historically the Republican bastion on Guam. From the 1970s on, Tamuning has always elected a Republican Commissioner or Mayor. There are some election years where there isn't even a Democratic candidate for those positions. In 1978, Tamuning was the lead village of election District Two, which had seven seats in the Legislature. All seven seats in District Two were won by Republicans.

Agaña. The capital city always elects, election after election, since the 1970s, a Republican mayor and Republican candidates for Governor and the Legislature get high votes in Agaña.


Sinajaña. This village is so Democrat, it has never elected a Republican Commissioner or Mayor, and many times the Republicans don't even bother presenting a candidate. In legislative and gubernatorial elections, Sinajaña can usually be counted as a safe Democrat village.

Inarajan. In the 1970s, Democratic candidates for Governor or Senator could count on a lot of votes in this village.

Merizo. Also considered a very safe Democratic stronghold in the 1970s.


Umatac. Talofofo. Chalan Pago-Ordot. Piti. Yoña. Mangilao. Barrigada. These villages, in the 1970s, were still considered Democratic territory, but things were beginning to change. Some of these villages had Republican Commissioners (e.g. Bernardo in Yoña for many terms). Chalan Pago was considered more Democrat while Ordot had significant Republican support. Umatac started to see more Republican votes in the latter 1970s. When Barrigada Heights was opened, Barrigada saw more Republican votes.


Mongmong-Toto-Maite. Agaña Heights. Agat. Santa Rita. Asan-Maina. Again, in some of these villages, there were significant Democratic voters. Asan was considered, in the 70s, more Republican while Maina was more Democrat. Mongmong more Republican and Toto more Democrat (Maite was considered a Republican area). Agat had a visible Filipino minority which boosted Republican support. Santa Rita had Republican mayors (Pete Roberto and Juan Perez, better-known-as Ducket). Agaña Heights leaned more towards the GOP, but for many years, its Commissioner (Frank Portusach) was Democrat.


Dededo. Yigo. These northernmost villages, at times, could be counted on to lean slightly toward the Republican side in the 1970s, but the Democratic support there was also strong. This can be seen in the 1978 senatorial race, which was done by districting. Dededo and Yigo formed District One, with five seats. In the 1978 election, 3 of those seats went to Republicans (Espaldon, Lamorena, Kasperbauer) and 2 seats went to Democrats (Dick Taitano and Joe T. San Agustin). But, two years later, in 1980, the last time senators were elected by districts, 3 seats in District One went to Democrats, and two went to Republicans.

Monday, February 15, 2016


The Delgado Brothers made famous a song written during the Japanese Occupation called "Ramon San."

The song was composed by a member of a road crew to boost morale and lighten the dreariness of laying out dirt roads for the Japanese during the Occupation. The composer was Vicente San Agustin Benavente, later the Commissioner of Dededo.

The "Ramon" mentioned in the song is supposedly Ramon San Agustin, who was made crew supervisor. That would have made Ramon a relative of the composer, also a San Agustin on his maternal side.

Three other Chamorro men are mentioned, a Sococo, a Chiguiña (or Cheguiña, the name is spelled both ways) and a Gualåfon (nickname for some of the Chargualaf family). But first names are not mentioned and anyone who might know who they were are now probably dead.

The song is humorous, poking fun at people and circumstances. Humor was a way of coping with the otherwise unpleasant aspects of the work and the even bigger issues surrounding it : the Japanese and all the risks the Chamorro men faced under the Japanese. More than likely, the Chamorro road crew could not, or at least would not, sing this song with a Japanese guard present.


1. Dori koji nani pu / hame taotao i chalan / må'gas-måme si Ramon San;
ya ha laknos i relos / ya ha ågang ham todos / fan macho'cho' sa' esta ora.
Mungnga hit fan / ta fan haggan / sa' u lalålo' si Ramon San.

(Dori koji nani pu / we are the road crew / our boss is Ramon San;
he took out the watch / and called us all / get to work because it's time.
Let's not be / like turtles / because Ramon San will be angry.)

2. Si Sococo segundo-ña / sa' ha dåkngas ilu-ña / ayo mina' må'gas gue';
sa' i fanihi et mås ya-ña / sa' chinechebang hila'-ña / yanggen guaha fahåne gue'.
Ya u kånno' / ayo i pilu / ya u na' do'do' ni diruru.

(Sococo was his second-in-command / because he shaved his head bald / that's what made him a boss; because fruit bat is his favorite / because his tongue gets chipped / if someone buys it for him. And he will eat / the fur / and will pass gas a whole lot.)

3. Kada pa(ra) bai in fan hånao / para iya Machanånao / ma na' meggai na tengguang.
Ma titiyas måno i siña / asta katgådo si Chiguiña / si Gualåfon ichibang.
Guiya sen metgot / lao gof padok / må'gas-måme si Ramon San.

(Each time we will go / over to Machananao / the road food is made in abundance.
As many titiyas as possible is made / until Chiguiña is weighed down / Gualåfon is number one.
He's the very strong one / but also has a large appetite / our boss Ramon San.)

4. Kada esta monhåyan / ayo hulo' i chalan / måtto i diesel ya ha yulang.
Man ma ågang ham ta'lo / pa(ra) bai in na'ye kaskåho / ai Ramon sungon diåhlo.
Ta cho'gue ha' ni diruru / sa' i titiyas u famulu.

(Each time it's finished / the road up there / the diesel comes and breaks.
They call us again / to spread gravel / oh Ramon, just bear with it.
We do the work very energetically / because the titiyas will get moldy.)

5. Para esta tres dias / mahettok i titiyas / si si Ramon de lalålo'.
Ha apreta ham ni diru / sa' i titiyas u famulu / guiya ha' para u tutunu.
Ya (ha) gef ngångas / sa' mahettok / maila' i hanom / sa' ha ñukot yo' / guse' ombre / chule' mågi / i hanom pa(ra) atuli.

(When it was going to be three days already / the titiyas got hard / and Ramon got angry.
He pushed us very hard / because the titiyas would get moldy / he alone would put it on the fire.
And he really chewed it / because it was hard / bring water / because it's choking me / hurry up man / bring here / the water for corn porridge.)

6. Kada pa(ra) bai in fan hånao / para i chago' na lugåt / siempre såbe si "my sweetheart."
Ti hu logra yo' mañiko / ni i pala yan i piko / fåtta neni-ho gi tiempo.
Ya hu toktok ha' / kariño ha' / i alunan / sa' yan måtto yo' ichibang.

(Each time we're going to go / to a distant place / "my sweetheart" will surely know.
I didn't get to enjoy kissing / not even the shovel nor the pick / my baby wasn't there at the time.
And I only hugged / and gave affection / to the pillow / because when I arrive it will be number one.)


Dori koji nanu pu. This is a Chamorro's way of having fun with the Japanese language. Dori in Japanese means "street." And the song is about a road crew. The rest of this phrase may not be proper Japanese but just the composer's way of repeating or imitating what he heard among the Japanese.

Ramon or Raymond? The man's name was Ramon, but the singers pronounce it Raymond, the same name but the English version. Perhaps this is another way of teasing Ramon, by giving him an American name.

Fan haggan. Haggan is "turtle." It means, "Let's not be as slow as turtles."

Chinechebang hila'-ña. It's a way of poking fun at Sococo's great love for fruit bat, that, in eating it with enthusiasm, his tongue gets chipped (as if that were possible). It's the sarcasm of the statement that matters.

Gualåfon. This is a family nickname for some of the Chargualaf family.

Titiyas. When corn tortilla (titiyas mai'es) is a few days old, it will harden. The solution is to wet it with water and then put it on a fire to soften it. If left alone, the titiyas will also start to grow mold. Pulu means animal "hair" or "fur" and mold looks like fur.

Siempre såbe. Borrowed from Spanish. Saber means "to know." Sabe means he or she knows.

Sweetheart. The last verse of the song is a reference to the men's missing their girlfriends or wives. After having not seen their girls for some time, all they have, as it were, to hug and kiss are the handles of their shovels and picks, and they don't even get to enjoy that. They also hug their pillows in lieu of their sweethearts. But, when the men finally get to go home and see their ladies, it will be "number one."


Yet another oral tradition says that the Ramon of the song is Raymond Underwood, son of James and Ana Martinez Underwood, who was made head of the road crew.

The classic Delgado Brothers recording :

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Hymn to Our Lady of Lourdes based on a Basque original and put into Chamorro by Påle' Román María de Vera, Capuchin, around 1919.

1. MATUNA HAO, O Bithen de Lurdes
inangokkon i taotao-mo;
i umågang hao guse' un po'lo
gi mames na korason-mo.

Blessed are you, Oh Virgin of Lourdes
the hope of your people;
quickly place those who call to you
into your sweet heart.

Refrain : Tayuyute ham gi me'nan Jesus, i un guaiya na påtgon-mo. Nåna lao, Nåna! Cha'-mo didingo ini i famagu'on-mo.

Pray for us before Jesus, your beloved child. Oh my, Mother! Dare not abandon these your children.

2. Guinaiya i kumonne' hao mågi
gi umisao na tano'-mo;
ya humuyung hao guihe gi Lurdes,
mangasao i atadok-mo.

Love brought you here
to your world which is sinful;
and you appeared there in Lourdes,
your eyes weeping.

3. Ayo as Bernadita Zubiru
i lumi'e i lago'-mo;
ya ha hungok nina' sen pinite
i na' tanges na fino'-mo.

She who was Bernadette Soubirous
who saw your tears;
and heard very sorrowfully
your tearful words.

4. Ilek-mo "Fa'tinas penitensia,
hamyo yan i chataotao-mo;
cha'-mo måmåhgong man sinangåne
nu ini na matago'-mo."

You said, "Do penance,
you and your fellow men;
do not stop telling them
about this task of yours."

5. An måkpo' i tinaitai-mo guihe
ya un atan i fi'on-mo;
un na' milalak gi acho' hånom,
fanhasuyan i lago'-mo.

When your prayers were done there
and you looked at your side;
you made water pour out from the rock,
a reminder of your tears.

6. Ma kåhat guihe guma'yu'us,
aya' yan i malago'-mo;
annai taimaktos gine'fli'e'-mo
nu todos i tentago'-mo.

A church was built there,
conforming to your wishes;
where your love is endless
for all your servants.

7. Fa' maolek lokkue' Bithen de Lurdes
iya Guåhan na tano'-mo;
po'lo ham Raina yan Nånan-måme
gi halom i korason-mo.

Make good, as well, Virgin of Lourdes,
your land of Guam;
place us, our Queen and Mother,
within your heart.


Nåna lao. There is no exact translation for this Chamorro phrase which can mean many things but is said here as a cry of exasperation or, at other times, of disapproval or sarcasm.

Ini. This is the pre-Spanish Chamorro word for "this" or "these." Chamorros gradually dropped it in favor of the Spanish "este." You can see how Påle' Román tried to revive its use by favoring the word in this hymn over "este."

Måhgong. This is ordinarily understood as "peace" but it can also be understood as "still, quiet, at rest." So the hymn has Mary telling Bernadette not to be still or quiet but to be always on the move spreading the message of Lourdes.

Fanhasuyan. Literally, "place of thinking or remembering." A poetic way of saying "reminder."

Taimaktos. Måktos means to break or snap something extended, linked or continuous, like a rope, chain, wire or thread. Poetically, taimaktos means "unbreakable, infinite, endless."

Guåhan. The original name, it is believed, of Guam.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Chamorro matrons in black veils during Good Friday procession in the 1920s

In modern Guam, people argue whether chicken is meat or not, when discussing the Church's Lenten regulations. Forty years ago, no one ever asked that question. Everyone understood that chicken was not eaten on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.

Little do people know how much more strict our grandparents observed the Lenten penances in their day.

A sermon written in Chamorro in the year 1873 explains these Lenten regulations. Here are the main points, with some explanations in the Chamorro spoken at the time, 150 years ago or so.

1. During Lent, all seven Fridays of Lent were fast days AS WELL AS Holy Saturday (which is not the case today). Interestingly, Ash Wednesday was not a fast day for the faithful in the Marianas and , I suppose, also the Philippines, since the Marianas were included in the laws of the Philippines.

Most of the Catholic world had many more fast days but Rome reduced their number for places like the Philippines and the Marianas, considering the indios (natives) weaker in physical strength to be able to withstand a more rigorous fast.

2. On fast days, breakfast was limited to an ounce and a half of food devoid of animal substance.

Para u fan gef ayunat i kilisyåno, u kånno', gin oga'an, onsa i media na nengkanno' ni i tai iyo sustånsian gå'ga'. Pot ehemplo, chokolåte, chå, kafe, un tasitan atule, un pedasiton titiyas, pat kuatkiera ha' otro na nengkanno' yagin tai iyo sustånsian gå'ga'.

For the Christian to truly fast, he will eat, if in the morning, an ounce and a half of food lacking animal substance. For example, chocolate, tea, coffee, a small cup of atule (corn porridge), a small piece of tortilla, or whatever other food if it lacks animal substance.

3. On fast days, a person can eat for lunch whatever his stomach needs, except meat as these days were also days of abstinence. But he could eat fish, and cook it even in lard (animal fat).

4. On fast days, a person's dinner was limited to eight ounces of food, but no animal substance at all, except that he could cook his vegetables in lard (animal fat) as that was allowed in the Philippines, under which the Marianas fell.

Gin puenge, siña u kolasion asta ocho onsas na nengkanno', lao atotta gi kolasion kåtne pat guihan, lao siña u kosina håf na gollai yan i mantika, sa' ma konsiente gine giya Filipinas.

At night, he can have a light meal up to eight ounces, but it is forbidden to have meat or fish, but he can cook whatever vegetable in lard, because it is allowed here in the Philippines.

5. Abstinence was the refraining from eating meat, and those days did include Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent, plus Holy Wednesday, Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday. The Church regulations speak of only two kinds of animal food : meat and fish. Chicken and other poultry were thus clearly identified as meat and not fish.

6. Here is an interesting Lenten rule of the past that, even today, some older Chamorros remember and observe! And that is to never eat both meat and fish at the same meal on any day in Lent. This is because, at one time, that was actually the rule!

I ha'åne siha nai atotta ma na' danña' kåtne yan guihan, este siha : todo i ha'åne siha gi Kuaresma asta i Damenggo-ña siha lokkue', yan i ha'ånen ayunat.

The days when it is forbidden to mix meat and fish are these : all the days of Lent including their Sundays, and the fast days.


Even in these short, partial excerpts from the Chamorro sermon we see some old words not used nowadays, or not used in the same way today.

Atotta : it means "forbidden."

Kolasion : a light meal.

Yagin : another form of the word yanggen (meaning "if").

Gine : another form of the word guine (meaning "here").

Kosina : known to us today as "kitchen," which it also meant in the past, but back then it could also mean "to cook."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016



The Spanish government in the Marianas employed Chamorros as village officials very early in its history. In the beginning, they were members of the local military company. In Hagåtña, these troops were originally Spanish, Latin American and Filipino soldiers, many of whom then married Chamorro women. Their offspring would have spoken Chamorro.

Out in the rural villages, there were fewer outsiders, sometimes none at all, except for the village priest.

In 1791, just about 100 years after the end of Chamorro-Spanish wars, these were the officials in the villages outside of the capital city of Hagåtña. Saipan and Tinian have no officials since these island no longer had a permanent population.

I really dislike interspersing my remarks within this list, but it would be easier for readers to follow my explanatory comments if I did.

Marcelino Achuga, Assistant to the Gobernadorcillo
Francisco Achuga, Sheriff

The Gobernadorcillo ("little governor") was like a mayor. Only the larger villages usually had one.

We can assume that Achuga is a Chamorro name. We're not sure what it meant. It could come from the prefix A which means "together" or "each other." Chuga means "to calm someone or something down." Chuga i mimo. Calm the fight down.

The sheriff (alguacil) was the local law enforcer, more or less like a policeman or warden.

Tomas Montezuma *, Assistant

An interesting name, Montezuma. It appears on the very early lists of "Spanish" soldiers on Guam. But the name is Mexican, after the Aztec historical figure of Moctezuma. Many people in Mexico still have Montezuma or Moctezuma as their surname.

Baltasar Afaisen, Assistant

A Chamorro name now associated only with Inalåhan but, as you can see, was found elsewhere on Guam in the past. Aputguan (Apotguan) is where Dungca's Beach or Alupang is in Tamuning. The prefix A (together/each other) and the word faisen (to ask) put together mean "to ask each other."

Francisco Tinafña, Assistant
Mariano Materne, Sheriff

A good number of Chamorro names end with the suffix -ÑA, meaning either "his/her" or "more than." If only we knew what the first part of the name Tinåfña meant. Ostensibly the root word is tåf, which might be connected with the word tåftåf (early) or it could mean something we have no clue about.

Materne still exists today and old documents spell it Matetnge, so I believe that is sufficient evidence that the name comes from totnge, which means "to build or start a fire."

Antonio Chibog, Assistant

Chibog was a last name that survived in Asan all the way till the early 1900s. I knew a lady whose grandmother was named Chibog. But the name, now, has disappeared.

Nicolas Agangi, Assistant

Agångi means "to invite."

Tepungan is the area in between Asan and Piti. What is now the village of Piti used to be further east in what is called Tepungan.

Quintin Namnam, Gobernadorcillo
Julian Quitaofi, Sheriff

Namnam appears in other lost Chamorro surnames like Salucnamnam and Saguanamnam. Someone told me it appears in a list of Chamorro words written by an explorer and it means "expert."

The Qui in Quitaofi might be the same as the Qui in Quichocho or Quitugua, meaning ke or "try to." But taofi remains the mystery!

Pedro Nae, Gobernadorcillo
Gaspar Gofsagua, Assistant
Francisco Cheguiña, Sheriff

Nae could be the word nå'e (to give) but since the writing lacks diacritical marks, like the glota, it's hard to be sure if that is true or if the word is something else.

Sågua' means "port" as in Commercial Port. Gof means "very." Gofsagua is a very good port, or someone who is a good protector of others.

Cheguiña, nowadays also spelled Chiguiña, is very likely Chagiña, from chagi or "try." The Spaniards sometimes used E for A such as in Megofña, which is magofña.

Dionisio Afaii, Gobernadorcillo
Antonio Quinene, Sheriff

Afaii remains a mystery, although we know the prefix A, and there are words få'i (rice seedling) and another prefix fai, but it still remains a mystery.

Quinene comes from konne' (to take).

Francisco Hokokña, Gobernadorcillo
Pedro Mantanoña, Sheriff

Hokkok means "to the absolute limit" and can also mean "exhausted, depleted."

Tåno' ('land" or "to walk on land") seems to be the root in Mantanoña, and the MAN prefix could be the same as the MAN in Mansapit, which is a shortening of masåsåpet, in the same way that mansangan is a shortening of masåsångan

Felipe Quifaña, Gobernadorcillo
Senen Atoigue, Sheriff

Yes, there used to be a village at Pago Bay.

Again, I wish I knew what quifa meant, being the root, it seems of Quifaña. Perhaps it is KE + FA'. "To try to make/do."

Atoigue is a name that survives till today. The -GUE suffix means "to do or make for, to or on behalf of someone." So the root word would be ato', which means "to give or offer." Atoigue thus would mean "to give someone" or "for someone," in the same way that fåtto (to arrive) becomes fatoigue (to go to someone).

Francisco Borja Taimañao, Gobernadorcillo
Mariano Quicanai, Assistant
Jose Charpagon, Sheriff             

The Borja in the first man's name is not his mother's maiden name but rather his second baptismal name. There are many Franciscos among the saints and this one was Saint Francis Borgia, in Spanish Francisco de Borja, often shortened to just Francisco Borja.

Taimañao, a name that exists today, means "fearless."

Quicanai seems to be KE + KANNAI, but that meaning is curious. To attempt to hand? Perhaps the kanai is not kånnai ("hand") but something else we don't know anymore.

Charpagon seems to come from CHAT (badly) and PAGON but I can't find a meaning for pågon, or even pågong


This list shows very clearly that the blood of our ancestors did not evaporate or disappear.

Every single one of these men, with one exception, had what appears to be indigenous, Chamorro names. This means that Chamorro mothers and, in most cases, Chamorro fathers brought forth Chamorro children.

It is true that some of these men may have been illegitimate, the sons of foreign men. That did happen not infrequently. But illegitimate births were not overwhelming, and were not even the majority of cases.

Over time, people with "pure" Chamorro blood mated with people of foreign or mixed blood, and the so-called "pure" strain became mixed. But it didn't disappear entirely. Anyone descended from these people are descendants of a people who once lived in our islands long before the Europeans and others came ashore.

This is why Chamorros consider "Chamorro" to mean both those who lived here before 1668 (Sanvitores' arrival) and those descended from them, regardless how much foreign blood was added to them.

Monday, February 8, 2016


Are you excited?

OK then. How do you say that in Chamorro?

I was asked the other day that very question, and I must admit I was stumped.

People doing a TV ad wanted to end the commercial saying that they were offering something exciting and they wanted to say that in Chamorro.

Now, before we proceed, I think it is important for us to be very clear what we mean by "excited" or "exciting."

By "excited" or "exciting" we mean a high degree of enjoyment or positive anticipation.

So, off I went to my dictionaries and to my older Chamorro speakers whom I always consult. Even these proficient speakers of Chamorro scratched their heads and needed time to think about the question. How does one say "excitement" or "excited" in Chamorro?

Many words were suggested, but most of them only got close to the idea of excitement, but didn't hit the nail on the head.

Here are some of the words suggested to me :


Manman means to stand in awe or admiration at something amazing or unusual. To be manman is to be beside oneself in wonder. Now, you can be manman when you're excited. But not always. We can be excited about ordinary things which do not cause awe and wonder. For example, carrot cake always makes me excited, but does not cause me awe and wonder.


Borrowed from a Spanish word, it is related to our English word anxious because both are based on a Latin original. Anxious/ånsias. It is true that we are often anxious when we are excited. If I am waiting in a huge crowd for the appearance of my favorite megastar, I can be both excited and anxious. Anxious that the star is taking too long to appear on stage; anxious that I may not get a good view, and so on. I would be ånsias waiting to see the dentist, but I wouldn't say I would be excited to see the dentist! So I don't think ånsias (anxious) perfectly fits the idea of excitement.


This comes from the word guåfe or "fire." Guinafe means "burned" and guinaguafe means "burning." Again, being excited can be likened to burning up inside with one's emotions. But the difficulty is that guinafe can also mean literally burnt, as in a piece of meat on a grill. One can be burning up inside when one is angry, too. So, guinafe may not hit the nail on the head when it comes to excitement.


Another loan word from Spanish, animoso comes from the word ånimo, which means "spirit, energy, intent, effort." Nå'e ånimo means "give it your all, put your heart into it." Animoso usually means, therefore, "industrious, energetic." So, although excitement connotes an increase in spirit, to put it colloquially, "to be pumped up," animoso doesn't quite fit "excitement."


Yet another Spanish loan word, it means "fun, entertainment, play." Again, it suggests excitement but one doesn't have to be excited when one is being entertained or when one is having some fun playing cards. Excitement suggests something stronger than simple pleasure.

And there were other such similar words that suggest excitement, or can be part of excitement, but do not work as an exact translation of "excitement."


Believe it or not, magof (happy) is one of the better translations I came across. And that is because, in the way we are using the word "excitement" in this post, we are talking about strong enthusiasm, delight and pleasure about something. This always means happiness. To say "I am excited to be here" always means one is happy to be there.

Enjoying the thrill of bungee jumping, one could say "Magof yo'" and mean "I am excited!"

Hearing that the show is about to begin in 10 seconds, one could say "Magof yo'" and mean "I am excited!"

Or, "Ei na minagof!" and mean "Wow, what excitement!"

Or, "Na' magof!" and mean "Exciting!"

But magof always means "happy," so Chamorro seems to lack a precise word that specifically means "excited."

But how about.....


If you look at the 1932 Chamorro dictionary of Påle' Roman, he defines agoddai as "to become greatly excited," to become "enthused, impassioned."

I really like this option. I think this is the original meaning of the word agoddai.

The challenge we have today using agoddai to mean "excited" or "excitement" is that, over the years, agoddai has become associated with only one use of the word.

If someone today hears agoddai, s/he will usually think of the intense desire to pinch a baby.

Personally, I find it suspicious that our ancestors would have invented a word that only meant the intense desire to pinch a baby! It is possible they did, I won't deny that. But, to me, it seems more believable that our ancestors had a word to simple express any excitement or intense desire. Then, over time, people narrowed it down to one use of the word.

But Påle' Roman's older dictionary shows us that, at least even as late as the 1930s, Chamorros were using agoddai to express an intense desire, passion and excitement for other things, too. As in a passion for a person.

Ma agoddai yo' nu hågo. I feel passionate for you. You enthuse me.

Na' ma agoddai este! This is exciting! This is exhilarating! 

I think I found my answer. But, I would be sure to be misunderstood by the majority of people today if I used agoddai to mean general excitement about something.

Friday, February 5, 2016



Or in the Marianas, for that matter. And since westernization, to be precise. Prior to 1668, our ancestors were not Christian and were obviously buried in our islands.

But ever since Catholic Spain began to run things, only Catholic cemeteries were allowed in the Marianas, under the supervision of the local priest.

So, if you were not Catholic (and the islands always had non-Catholic residents, at least in the 1800s), where was your body laid to rest if you died in the Marianas?

The fact is that Catholic cemeteries had provisions for that possibility.

Catholic cemeteries were consecrated and a fence or a wall marked the area that was consecrated. Right outside that fence or wall was the space provided for non-Catholics, unbaptized babies, suicides and "public sinners," meaning Catholics who lived in a public way in contradiction to the religion who died without reconciling with the Church. Catholics who died unrepentant of living with a partner outside of marriage, or Catholics who joined the Freemasons, for example, would be buried here. Many of these prohibitions concerning burial in a Catholic cemetery are no longer in force, but I remember the days visiting a relative's grave which was outside the fence.

It is documented that, during Spanish times, Protestants and others were buried at Pigo but in the unconsecrated portion of the cemetery.


There may be documentation stored somewhere in the US among Navy records detailing the opening of this cemetery but they aren't readily accessible, if they exist at all. Still, the first burial we know of dates back to 1902, during the tenure of the second American Naval Governor of Guam, Seaton Schroeder.

Seeing the need for a burial space for their own personnel and for the increasing number of non-Catholics on American Guam, the Naval Government chose this site for a military cemetery. At the time, this area of Hagåtña, called San Antonio, as yet had a small population. This area would have been at the outer edge of the barrio or district. But it wouldn't be long before the population grew and new houses would be built to the east of the cemetery. The beach and the road in front served as the northern and southern borders.


The oldest grave is that of an American Marine private, Elwood Hopkins. But more than just active stateside military personnel are buried here. There are some spouses, children and retired military men, too. And there are also some Chamorro military men, both active and retired.

Jesus L. Guerrero, Chamorro, was in the Navy and died during World War II in 1944

Ah Shun Chang was Chinese and a member of the Auxiliary Services of the US Navy, which probably meant he was a cook or other domestic worker in the Navy.

Francisco Unpingco Rivera was a Chamorro Navy man who died in the attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His body was later buried on Guam.

Alessandro Veneziano was Greek Orthodox. He came to Guam as a musician in the Navy and married a Chamorro lady. His children eventually moved to the US mainland.

Gertrud Costenoble was a civilian and a German. Her husband had first moved to Saipan when it was under the Germans but he then moved to Guam.

Another German buried here was a civil servant in the Saipan government! For whatever reason (maybe medical?) he was on Guam in early 1903 and passed away.


On April 7, 1917, when the U.S. declared war on Germany, a German ship, the SMS Cormoran, peacefully lay in Apra Harbor. Rather than let the ship fall into American hands, the Germans on board blew up their own ship. Seven crew members died and are buried in this cemetery.

The Cormoran marker, with the German Iron Cross and inscription in the German language.

Poor Emil Reschke of the German Navy didn't make it alive after the explosion.

One of the Cormoran deceased was not German at all but from German-controlled New Guinea. His name was Boomerum (or Bumerum).